ATLANTA -- The football will have to wait at Georgia Tech. There is an off-field transformation that comes first. It involves Easter Bunnies, Diet Mountain Dew and Young Jeezy ducking into a huddle during spring practice.
It is overseen by a "Star Wars" nerd who made his bones as Nick Saban's director of player personnel. Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins adores titles and corporate structure right down to his mid-60s chief of staff Vince Sinagra.
You literally have to get past Sinagra to get to Collins' office. Sinagra's desk is setup so it faces the entrance to Collins' office.
"He watches my back and watches this door," Collins said this spring from his office overlooking Grant Field. "He is one of the most amazing men I have ever known."
Collins is nothing if not loyal. Sinagra hired him as a graduate assistant at Fordham -- 23 years ago.
As mentioned, you may not notice much about the football at Georgia Tech for a while. Collins has the task of transitioning Paul Johnson's triple option offense to something more spread option-ish.
It will be a process. But not before everything else falls into place. First, the philosophy: Collins' core belief relates to player contracts. You know, those things college athletes can never have.
"In this day and age of college football and recruiting, the recruits aren't going anywhere for contracts or money," Collins said. "They're going to places that have the strongest brand."
Thus, Georgia Teach football will have to wait. In fact, some of the preseason magazines already have the Yellow Jackets finishing last in the ACC Coastal.
Georgia Tech, The Experience? Well, that's something else.
Collins begins by asking for your jersey number. Delivered to his office are a set of business cards. They are shaped in the image a Georgia Tech player with Collins' information on one side and a numberless jersey on the other.
If you are a recruit, you don't get out of the office without Collins writing your high school number on that jersey and telling you to give him a call.
"This is where I close with recruits," the coach says proudly. "Even with our business cards, we want to give our brand out."
That brand reflects what Dabo Swinney has done at Clemson -- making everything fun. The reminder that Dabo and the Tigers were there first -- and doing it better -- comes in the season opener. Georgia Tech travels to Clemson on Aug. 29.
Until then, Collins will tell the story of drinking from his "Swag Chalice." Out of it, Collins guzzles that Diet Mountain Dew to celebrate, well, life. At Temple, the cup was custom made with an ornate block "T." At Georgia Tech, it is still a concession-stand plastic cup adorned with faux jewels.
DJ Teflon has been imported to play at practices and scrimmages. And when we say "play," there is no let up.
"During spring ball, every single practice we had a DJ spinning," Collins said. "The whole time in the spring game. Most people run it exactly like a spring game. We have [the DJ] running the entire time.
"The fans stayed until the end. A lot of spring games, they see what they want to see and then they bounce. This place was rocking the entire time. I think DJ Teflon had a lot to do with it."
Atlanta's own Young Jeezy was even invited to a spring practice.
"He got there right in time for the 2-minute drill," Collins said. "He got in the huddle and explained the rules of the 2-minute drill."
Just for clarification, this is the Collins still best known for coordinating defenses for Dan Mullen at Mississippi State (2011-14) and Jim McElwain at Florida (2015-16).
Those teams finished among the top four in the SEC in turnovers forced during four of those six years. In two seasons leading Temple, he went 15-10.
But before you're let in, you have to go through Sinagra. The former Rhode Island, Canadian Football League and World Football League defensive lineman has toured the football world -- from Anna Maria College (Division III) as head coach to Milford Academy as defensive coordinator.
"I very rarely have a meeting without him in the room," Collins said.
It wasn't until Collins reached Georgia Tech that we knew about the swag, the DJs and … the office. Collins' room is littered with oversized cardboard images of Georgia Tech greats, film actors, musicians and entertainers.
Graduate assistants hold them up as pass rushers during 7-on-7 drills. It breaks up the monotony.
So does Collins' fascination with "Star Wars." The internet broke a bit last season when, during a Thursday night game against Tulsa, assistants dressed as storm troopers. They held up "$ Down" on third down (Money Down, get it?) as they do every game.
It's no surprise that, at age 48, Collins is the youngest Georgia Tech head coach in 40 years.
This is no Power Five starter job. Collins was born in nearby Conyers, Georgia. George O'Leary hired him twice -- first at GT in 1999 and again at UCF in 2008.
"I worked for him five total years, which cumulatively is like 30," Collins said. "The first three years I worked for him, I don't think I saw my wife awake for three years. That's not an exaggeration."
O'Leary, retired since 2015, is as old school as they get. The 72-year-old ex-coach sent a simple congratulatory text after visiting during the spring.
"That's the first time he told me he was proud of me," Collins said.
So this isn't some David Blaine coaching trick. O'Leary's Georgia Tech teams were tough as its coach and always hovered around the top 25. Early on during his first tenure at GT, Collins had the impudence to ask his boss if he could recruit.
He had come to the Jackets from Division III Albright College, which had just signed 85 players. (There are no recruiting limitations in the non-scholarship system.) Collins had signed 44 of them.
Back then, Georgia Tech basically recruited six states. O'Leary told Collins he could have the other 44. Collins landed five players -- two from California (Oakland and Los Angeles), one of a Utah junior college, one from Denver and one from Minnesota.
If Georgia Tech had been a regional school then, it wasn't anymore.
"He thought he would shut me up [by] giving me 44 states. It didn't," Collins said. "Once he saw the results, he was ready. He promoted me to full time after that year."
When Collins returned as Georgia Tech's director of player personnel in 2006, he helped recruited one of the program's best classes in 2007.
That got the attention of Nick Saban, who brought Collins in at the same position. That 2008 Alabama class Collins helped assemble included Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, Mark Barron, Barrett Jones, Terrence Cody and Dont'a Hightower.
Georgia Tech boasts more history than accomplishment in recent times. It should never be forgotten that Johnson won the entire ACC in 2009 and the ACC Coastal in 2014. That option that was so disparaged at times? It worked. In Demaryius Thomas' final season at GT (Johnson's second), the wideout caught 46 balls in his only 1,000-yard college season.
Hall of Fame coach Bobby Dodd's name adorns the stadium. The structure is going on its 106th year. But there's a reason Collins had five Easter Bunnies parading around during a spring scrimmage. Four of them represented the national championships claimed by the school (1917, 1928, 1952, 1990). The fifth rabbit signified, "the one you're going to win," Collins told his staff, according to football research and analytics coordinator Pat Boyle.
"He wants to create chaos in a controlled environment," Boyle added. "He causes all this chaos with the Easter Bunnies at practice. At the end of the day, the Easter Bunnies are handling out candy to our kids.
"It's the noise in general. There are points in practice people are dancing. Most of the time, it's loud; it makes it hard to communicate. Players have to be more inventive with hand signals."
In short, Collins is aiming to make an elite engineering school in the heart of Atlanta the place to play -- not just in the ACC or the South but perhaps one day in the country.
It doesn't take GPS to figure out Georgia Tech is more or less equidistant between Alabama and Clemson, the current leaders in the industry.
"Those are two of the top programs in the country right now," Collins said. "The state of Georgia and city of Atlanta is very fertile recruiting ground. We're right in the middle of it."
Georgia Tech's corporate structure meets halfway, too -- somewhere between Fortune 500 and Chucky Cheese. Collins carved money out of the Temple budget to hire Santino Stancato from the minor-league Brooklyn Cyclones. Stancato worked as a marketing manager for the Mets' Class A affiliate. He was handed the title "brand manager" at Temple before moving to GT.
Collins nicknamed him "Morpheus" -- the Greek god of dreams (also the Laurence Fishburne character who "dreamed" in "The Matrix").
You get the connection. If you can dream it at Georgia Tech, it can happen. Stancato's job is to make folks pay attention to GT any way possible. These days, that starts with an all-out social media assault.
"Whatever I can do to highlight this program to get national attention -- to get people that are thinking we are an attractive place and is fun -- that looks like we're working toward playing at the next level," Collins said. "We have to get that message out. Morpheus, he and I are in constant contact. If the brand is not important to you, it's not going to be important to anybody else."
Patrick Suddes has been one of the most sought after college football staffers in the country. At Alabama, he was associate director of football operations. Mack Brown did hand stands when he was able to lure him to Texas in 2013 as director of player personnel.
Suddes is now Georgia Tech's general manager. With Collins, that makes him in charge of recruiting and roster management.
You begin to realize, then, that it's somewhat less important that tight ends and slot receivers are in short supply. Johnson didn't use them. Collins and Suddes will eventually find and develop them.
Ask Collins when to go for it on fourth down, and he immediately loops in Boyle. During the final seconds of a 7-point Temple win against Navy last season, the 31-year-old Boyle can be seen at Collins' side advising on timing issues.
Boyle was a Temple offensive tackle who graduated in 2011. He is so immersed in analytics that he has been to the prestigious MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. The conference is sort of a South By Southwest hootenanny for analytics nerds. Malcolm Gladwell was there. So were Mike Leach and Jeannie Buss.
Asked if that psychology major of eight years ago could envision what his 31-year-old self is doing today, Boyle said, "Honestly, I'd say no. … Maybe you go about it this way first to attract the players."
That process continues next month when Georgia Tech hosts a "Future Jackets Camp" for elementary and middle schoolers. Collins says there will be ice cream trucks, water slides and DJs.